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Idaho Senate committee advances bill that would soften blow to circuit breaker program

Sen. Regina M. Bayer (R, Meridian)
Otto Kitsinger
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Sen. Regina Bayer, R-Meridian, sponsored a bill that increases the maximum home value from 125% of a county’s median home value to 200% to qualify for the state’s circuit breaker program. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

Committee also advances bill to fix urban renewal portion of tax law

The Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee unanimously voted on Tuesday to send Senate Bill 1241, a bill that would increase the maximum home value for a homeowner to qualify for the state’s circuit breaker program, to the Senate floor.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Regina Bayer, R-Meridian, increases the maximum home value from 125% of a county’s median home value to 200%. The 125% metric was established in House Bill 389 in 2021, and the change from that bill was scheduled to take effect later this year. Bayer’s bill includes an emergency clause that would make it effective retroactive to Jan. 1 if the new legislation is signed into law.

Two county assessors testified at the hearing in favor of the bill. Elmore County Assessor Josh Dison said 125% of home values in his county would be $283,000, which would have removed 30 people out of 464 program participants. Raising it to 200% would only remove three applicants at a threshold of about $453,000, he said.

“And when we looked at those, they were pretty high-end properties, so I think that accomplishes what the original bill was intending to do,” Dison said.

Shoshone County Assessor Jerry White said 2,050 people in his county of nearly 13,000 people receive an exemption from the circuit breaker program, and under the 125% metric, 91 of those recipients would have been excluded. Of those, White said, 44 are widows.

“I have a list of these people that would not have qualified. They’re very, very good citizens, I love them to death, but I would guess 40 of those (people) without this program would no longer be in their home,” White said.

White said his mother-in-law and cousin would likely be ineligible for the program under the established threshold, and his own mother would have been if she had not downsized her home.

With a change to 200%, White said eight people in his county would no longer qualify for the program, and he felt those individuals probably shouldn’t qualify anyway.

Garden City Mayor John Evans and Nampa Mayor Debbie Kling also spoke in favor of the legislation.

The bill will receive a full vote in the Senate in the coming weeks of the legislative session and, if it passes, will then be considered in the House of Representatives.

Urban renewal ‘fix’ bill also referred out of committee

Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, presented a bill in the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee that makes changes to urban renewal in property tax budgets that had changed as a result of House Bill 389. Under the original bill, an urban renewal district that expires or is otherwise modified was interpreted as subject to an 8% cap on growth in local budgets, which Rice said was unintentional. The bill also closes what Rice called a loophole around taxes that a district can claim in a different fiscal year, also known as foregone taxes.

Rice referred to it as a “cleanup bill” as a follow-up to House Bill 389.

The bill was unanimously sent to the Senate floor with a recommendation that it pass. It will receive a full vote in the Senate in the coming weeks of the legislative session and will then be considered in the House of Representatives.